Month: April 2018

Marketing Leadership: Aligning the entire team around the unifying vision is an integral part of project management

Back in high school, I was in a TV production class. And I LOVED it! It was a chance to flex my creative muscles, which I would later turn into a career. The exact same activities I got in trouble for in other classes, I got rewarded for in TV production.

But I had to make my way through calculus. And chemistry. And French class in order to get to TV production.

Is the professional world really so different from high school? There are the tasks and activities and goals we have a natural affinity and passion for. Where we shine. We’re in our flow. We’re the cheetah out on the grassland. The dolphin bow riding next to the boat. The dog whose leash just broke.

And then, there are the tasks we endure so that we can do those things that are in our natural flow. Tasks that make us feel like the tiger pacing in the cage.

A well-balanced marketing team has people who find their flow from a variety of different tasks. The artists and the scientists. The creatives and the data folks. And a good leader distributes and balances that work to benefit from the team’s skills and abilities, interests and passions.

But since many marketing projects require a multi-disciplinary team — complicated by the fact that many essential skills don’t reside in the organization but are in an ecosystem of agencies, consultants, design firms, dev shops, copywriting experts, etc., etc. — the successful marketing leader must be able to present a unifying vision.

The Unifying Vision of a Marketing Project

As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” I’d like to add to that with … “And tell people how you’re getting to the end.”

Here’s a nice example of a unifying vision I came across in a meeting with a prospective MECLABS Institute Research Partner (any identifying information about the prospective Research Partner has been removed to preserve anonymity).

Click on image to enlarge

There are three elements of this unifying vision that should keep a team informed, aligned and motivated.

The Project Objectives

“We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills …” — John F. Kennedy

Hey, JFK is a high bar. But he had a tough task. And he had to unite not only his team around it but the entire country. In 1962, the American space program’s biggest accomplishment was sending John Glenn around the Earth three times. A mission to the Moon would take so much more.

But this happened …

I use this example because projects can be a long, hard slog. Website redesign. New product launch. New software platform installation, integration or database migration. Rebranding.

You need the entire team aligned around the objective from the start and throughout the project. Vision leaks. Scope creeps. Morale flags. Keep the team focused on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Notice that there are two parts to each of the three objectives in the above diagram from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments).

The first part explains what the team and the partnership will accomplish, for example.

“To develop a robust Customer Theory with high predictive power.”

The second part answers why the team wants to accomplish that. It explains the resulting experience of achieving the objective. For example:

“This will enable us to create ideal marketing collateral.”

The Project Plan

Oh, I know. You’ve got Gantt charts and Excels and Microsoft Projects set up.

But remember that diverse team of talent you have? Different people learn in different ways. And people can get lost in complexity.

It’s always helpful to communicate the project plan in a simplified, high-level, visually appealing manner. A few key steps in the project plan to call out:

  • Project Launch – Get the team aligned from the beginning and introduce the key players in the launch session. This is especially important if there are players from multiple companies or even multiple departments. Get a clear understanding of when and how the doers (weekly status call) and the leaders (quarterly executive strategy sessions) will monitor progress, overcome obstacles, collaborate and the like.
  • Value Proposition – Value chains can be complex. Multiple individuals within a company, multiple departments, and disparate agencies and other partners (from the ad agency to the contracted manufacturer) can significantly impact the ultimate value customers receive. Customers couldn’t care less about these internal silos. They expect a consistent experience that lives up to the brand promise made by your marketing organization. A clear, forceful value proposition will help all these groups successfully serve the customer.
  • Testing – What is your project’s feedback loop? How do you know you’re being successful? When should you stay the course, and when should you iterate to improve the outcome? Testing can help inform these decisions with data.

The Project Methodology

If a jam band is not playing in the same key, the output can sound like a cacophony. But when everyone is on the same page, you get magic.

The same goes for your projects. Is there any specific methodology you will be following? A commodity approach begets commodity results. An inconsistent approach yields inconsistent results.

Get your team aligned with any guiding principles that should shape the project, especially when difficult decisions are to be made. For example, if you take a customer-first marketing approach, difficult decisions might be solved by the principle that the customer should be the primary beneficiary of the project’s outcome. While of course, the company will benefit as well, it should come along with the customer, not at the expense of the customer.

Related Resources

Participate in a research project with MECLABS Institute and drive conversion increases

Customer Theory: How To Leverage Empathy In Your Marketing (With Free Tool)

Value Proposition: 3 Worksheets To Help You Craft, Express And Create Derivative Value Props

How to Prep Your Staff for Corporate Rebranding

Marketing Leadership: Aligning the entire team around the unifying vision is an integral part of project management was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

GDPR: What You Need to Know

What You Need To Know About GDPR

On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation will now take effect, and will look to change the way people use and protect data for the foreseeable future. This regulation is seen as one of the biggest steps towards data control and protection on the internet, which has been one of the biggest issues on various websites that require user information and private data.

The passing of the GDPR is seen as a timely event, especially with Cambridge Analytica controversy, which affected millions of Facebook users and saw important data being misused. This case also sparked the need for stricter data regulations, and the GDPR aims to become the starting point for future data regulation laws worldwide.

The Beginning

The first proposal for GDPR was released in 2012. This was created as a response to the need to improve the existing data regulation law, which was the 1995 European Data Protection Directive. The 1995 law is one of the earliest data protection policies that were enacted into law. Despite the being put into law, the need for a more improved and comprehensive law was apparent, as the rapid growth of technology-enabled websites to transfer data at a faster rate, especially data transferred through social media platforms.

Before GDPR was launched, there have been numerous data reform policies that have been enacted by the EU, which eventually led to the European Parliament supporting the current GDPR. The process of approval took 2-3 years, with numerous improvements and reforms being sought before settling with the current set of regulations.

Data Mismanagement

One of the goals of the GDPR was to protect user data that is stored in various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms are some of the most popular sites on the internet, with billions of registered accounts worldwide. This makes these platforms some of the biggest archives of personal and private information in the internet.

While this might be of little concern to a good number of regular users, this amount of information has the potential to get to the wrong hands, and be manipulated to attack various people, groups, or even major companies and brands. This concern has become more alarming when numerous cases of leaked personal information from personal social media accounts have been released to the public over the past few years.

Leaked personal information includes personal videos and pictures, message threads, emails, and contact numbers. This has sparked major concern and asked the question on who can view these types of data, and how are they being used. With the Cambridge Analytica case putting this concern to court, the worldwide awareness and need for data protection and regulation have been put into perspective.

Other than social media, various companies and brands tend to request data from their registered users, as there have been issues with regards to data safety. One major data breach incident during the past few years occurred when numerous user accounts of Sony PlayStation Network users have been hacked, causing servers to temporarily shut down for the issue to be resolved.

These types of incidents can affect the customer’s trust in a company, as they will already assume that their data may not be safe in their hands. With the GDPR in place, users will now be able to know important details on what happens to the data that they share on a website, which ensures trust between them and the websites they visit.

The Purpose

Once the regulation has been put into effect, internet users will now have more freedom and control over their own private data hours for transparency purposes. Permission to access personal has been optimized as well, with more refined guidelines that require clear consent to whatever data is being used.

Users can also request copies of their own data from these companies and websites, which clearly informs them of how the data is being used. This also means that privacy and user-agreement policies will now be clearer and more detailed to provide more specific details and guidelines. This is done to ensure that users will no longer agree encounter vague and misguiding rules and regulations with regards to the use of their own personal data.

Major companies and websites will also follow new rules and regulations, which include deleting data that would no longer be in use and ensure that data is protected from malicious software and hackers. As for which websites will be affected by these regulations, it was made clear that websites from the EU, and websites that offer services to EU countries are affected by the changes. To an extent, this applies to a large majority of websites across the internet, since a good number of business and companies are going international.

Will This Affect SEO?

On the SEO side of things, the biggest impact that these regulations will have will be on website subscription and registration services, as you would have to comply with data protection policies and data consent, which will become more prominent in the next few months.

On the ranking side of things, the user experience will be impacted due to the data permissions and prompts that must be present to inform the users. Analytics is another area that will change, as users must be informed of how their data would be used in website analytics. There has been no clear indication that the GDPR will affect ranking factors. However, with Google rolling out numerous updates over the past few months, changes may be in order.

Key Takeaway

The GDPR is a huge step towards data protection across the world. With information moving at a very fast pace, this comes in as very timely, and would really ensure that data is used properly and ethically.

If you have questions and inquiries about GDPR and SEO in general, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

GDPR: What You Need to Know was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Optimize Your Instagram Marketing with These Strategies

Optimize Your Instagram Marketing with These Strategies

Despite being one of the “younger” social media sites, Instagram has become one of the most popular platforms. With millions of active users, among them some of the most popular brands and personalities, it has become a viable marketing tool that can become viral with the right strategy.

After being integrated into Facebook, Instagram has gotten much bigger, which made a lot of big brands to take notice of its potential to capture the audience’s interest. The impact and importance of Instagram as a marketing tool have been well-stated, and there are a good number of ways you can make it work with your brand. Here are some of the most effective strategies you can use to optimize your brand’s Instagram account.

Take Advantage of Instagram Stories

A feature that allows users to post photos and short videos that last over a 24-hour period, Instagram Stories has now become the most used feature in the platform. This helps keep users updated on current events and happenings of their fellow users. For digital marketers, this is a powerful tool that can be used to help promote their brand using the platform.

The current edition of Instagram stories has added features like polls, live video, GIFs, a “swipe up” feature, and more filter options that allow for more creativity. Numerous brands have taken notice of this wonderful feature and have used it to promote things such as upcoming and current events, new products, or important announcements.

There are many examples of brands using stories as a part of their digital marketing strategies, such as Papa John’s and PlayStation.

Papa John's


As you can see from the two examples, they used their Instagram stories for announcements such as discount codes and video game releases. One of the best things about using Instagram Stories is the fact that these posts expire after 24 hours, which means that there is less clutter and utilize regular posts on different matters.

Another great thing about Instagram Stories is the ability for users to send in their messages, and the option to swipe up to access certain pages. The convenience of sending in messages directly allows your brand to be able to respond to various inquiries as soon as soon as your story has been posted. The “Swipe Up” option allows users to visit different web pages, which is a great way to increase traffic to your main website.

Overall, using Instagram Stories is an effective way of marketing your brand online, and increase audience engagement and traffic.

Instagram Live Video

The number of live video streaming platforms have increased over the years, with the likes of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter all offering live video services to their users. Not to be outdone, Instagram has Live on Instagram, which allows you to stream videos live from your account.

Starting a live video is as simple as creating a story, all you need is a stable network connection, and then you’re set after a push of a button.

Live on Instagram

Upon starting, Instagram would notify the followers of your account, which helps increase the number of viewers who can interact with you, which can also help in spreading the word to their fellow users. Live video can be used in different events like press conferences, announcements, and even concerts. While it may be simple in design, Live on Instagram allows you to start live videos in an instant.

Optimize Hashtags

Like Twitter, Instagram makes use of hashtags, which is a way for users to search for content that they are interested in. When it comes to the number of hashtags in a single post, it is best to choose the best ones that would make your content easier to look for.


Ensure that the hashtags are related to the content that you would be posting, as you would be able to attain your ideal target market, which generates more interactions and traffic. Just remember, the more focused your hashtags are, the better.

Optimize Your Bio

First impressions always count and having a good one always bodes well for a lot of brands and people. This is why it is important to make sure that your Instagram bio represents what your brand is. You can put a short description of your products and services which helps your audience know what you offer.

IG Bio

Some accounts change their description for various announcements, which is one way users are informed or access more content beyond the accounts itself. Whichever method you choose, it is best to keep it concise yet useful.

Local Optimization

Location is another way for users to discover more content on Instagram, and it is best to take advantage of it. Applying location tags would help inform your users where your brand’s store or office is located, or where an important event is. There are brands on Instagram that offer quality products and services but do not get high conversions simply because users do not know where their establishment is located.

IG Location

Similar to local SEO practices, it is best to input the location of your brand to increase searchability. It is also worth noting that clicking on the location not only allows users to view content from that location but also links you to Google Maps, which allows you to know the directions going there. For establishments, this is a helpful and handy feature that would help more people go to you.

Key Takeaway

Instagram has become a powerful social media platform that can be used for digital marketing and socialpan> media management. With the right strategy, you would be able to create viral and high traffic content that would bring in more conversions and interactions. With these strategies, you would be able to make full use of your Instagram account and create content that can get viral.


If you have questions and inquiries about Social Media Management or SEO, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Optimize Your Instagram Marketing with These Strategies was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Creative Inspiration: Content We Enjoyed this Spring

Event tie-ins galore

Every brand should have an event calendar; you should know when anniversaries, yearly celebrations and public holidays are taking place so that you can leverage them to your advantage.

At Distilled, the team have a broad range of passions and interests, which means the types of content we share cover a broad range of topics and formats, from a gif we saw on Twitter to a multi-million dollar TV ad, everything we share feeds into what we produce. Predominantly we share content via Slack, Dropmark and Pinterest.

When I start to write these posts each quarter, it is the content that has left a lasting impression that makes the cut, that brand’s content that I have already shared with my friends. By trying to break down how / why that content was so memorable, we can start to understand narrative patterns or methodologies to apply to our own campaigns.

Tying in with an event as these first few pieces do, can come with big successes or failures, you end up having just one narrow time period to bank on, conversely, it also gives content a reason for existing, a focus to hinge on. This gamble has paid off for these brands.

If you have missed the rest of the series so far here are the roundups from winter, autumn and summer last year.  

Event tie-in

Coach DatingBlack Mirror, Netflix (Valentine’s day)

Black Mirror’s new season really drummed up a lot of conversation at Distilled. To tie in with the episode ‘Hang the DJ’ which was about dating using apps, Black Mirror released a simple site that allowed you (like on the show) to view the expiry date of your relationship. Do you really want to know? Sharing the link allows you to tap to reveal, and like in the show when the trust is broken, the numbers spiral out of control, the duration getting shorter and shorter. By Valentine’s Day the main buzz of the show had died down, this piece acted as a clever reminder to drum up the conversation again.

One, Two, ThreeSalvatore Ferragamo (Chinese year of the Dog)

I stumbled across these simple short films made by Mustashrik Mahbub, on Instagram. They give a nod to the Chinese New Year of the dog whilst combining with product tie-ins. The joy here is in the animation and illustration style, simple scenes, that stylistically say China. The shapes used in the illustrations tie in with the outlines debossed or woven into the products. These visual parallels make the products and brand come to life in an enchanting way. The team at Distilled were just commenting earlier today, saying how we genuinely like being advertised to on Instagram, and it is content like this with its roots deep in creativity that spread that joy, it’s not intrusive or offensive, it’s just a little polite hello, helping to keep a brand in mind.


YouTubes Deja:View tied in with International Women’s Day. The quiz starts by pairing you with another random YouTube user. It then shows you topical videos, e.g. Oprah Winfrey Golden Globe speech, and then asks a question related to the video, e.g. ‘Which female activist does Oprah honor in her speech?’ Malala Yousafzai, Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks or Emma Watson. Each question has a time limit of 12 seconds, and a multiple choice of 4 answers. Bars at the bottom show your progress against your opponent and there is also the option to share the link so you can play against a friend spreading the virality. This works because it challenges you to think about how current you are, how much you are keeping up with celebrity news, poignant advertising messages and political breakthroughs.


Netflix SocksNetflix

This is not a real product, you can’t buy it. Netflix, in fact, encourage you to make it yourself, and I am sure some people have tried. To me it is a commentary on the Netflix binge, it is positioned as a helpful aid to stop you missing parts of your favourite series because you have nodded off. The socks, look warm and wintery, the room is warm and there are lots of comfort items around, a warming cup of tea, cookies, a scented candle, cushions, a throw, and now these toasty warm socks, it could be seen as Christmassy, but Netflix has not hinged on this event specifically. There is also a slice of ingenuity in there a ‘huh, how did they do that’ feeling, which of course is explained, not that I am about to buy a LilyPad to help tap the pause button on my remote.

Avocado easter eggWaitrose

Could there be anything more millennial than a chocolate egg, made to look like and avocado? Articles about millennials are ten a penny these days and most of them probably talk about avocados smushed on toast. We like to poke fun at our generation however much we actively personify it’s cliche traits. You can buy this avocado chocolate egg for £8. It’s been a real talking point, I mean come on it is a joke product, which makes me think, is Waitrose even doing this for sales or just for press? Probably a bit of both. I mean surely if someone loves avocados that much, you would buy them an avocado, as opposed to a chocolate egg that looks like one.

Branded Content

31 day challengeBarclaycard  

The start of the year always marks a change of attitude; it has always astounded me how in the most depressing month of the year, we choose dry January, no chocolate and giving up on other things we love, surely we need them to get through. This year we saw a positive change, people started something instead, from brands to friends alike. For Barclaycard vlogger, Giovanna Fletcher started something different for all of the 31 days in January. This content inspires us to do more ourselves and leaves the bank Barclaycard front of mind as a brand, that, like an encouraging parent gave us that little nudge that we needed to better ourselves.

Long Format

How to fix a toiletGoogle News Labs

Using the power of search, Google News Labs knows precisely what we want to read about. Google visualised the prevalence of searches by the scale of the item, we can see that walls are what we search how to fix most. The article then breaks the data down by country, comically North Americans fixing toilets first and foremost. The simple illustrations, although just stick men do have flair, and don’t aim to visualise everything.  For example in the treemap break down only the largest segment is animated, but not the others. These treatments make absorbing a lot of data engaging. Although created by Google it is not heavily branded, even down to its custom domain ‘’. The article starts with an everyday conversation, before the title, subhead and credit, which is engaging instantly.

Stunts / Real World

You’re forgetful when you’re hungrySnickers

I like the idea of a billboard poster being something else. Valentine’s day was a perfect tie-in for the Snickers ‘You’re forgetful when your hungry’ campaign. Taking to the streets, Snickers used a billboard poster to hand out free valentines cards to passers-by and as a slightly more budget-friendly version a food truck (mobile low-cost ad space) to hand out invites to forgetful partners for Valentine’s day dinner.

Taking to the streets and working with the general public’s involvement can be risky, but rewarding too as we found out in our Interflora campaign. When working with the general public you must leave the final narrative up to some spontaneity, for example in the Snickers video, the guy holding three roses and grabbing for three cards, you just can’t write that stuff. The Snickers food truck ad is narrated by a sultry sounding french man, adding to that romantic je ne sais quoi of the ad.


Nothing beats a LondonerNike

Call me sad, but there is nothing that excites me more than a new advert by a massive brand. There was a lot of controversy over the Nike ad at Distilled. Some thought it was overly aggressive; I would argue that that style of expression fits hip hop / grime and the target demographic relate to that way of talking amongst their peers, so its positioned perfectly. It feels exclusive; it’s London thing, a club, those of us in it feel connected, part of a community. Others felt shunned, alienated; it created a backlash of press attention. There was an outcry from Manchester saying where is ours? It’s one of those videos where (as a Londoner) you can say ‘oh I’ve been there’. It is empowering it depicts other people’s sports journeys and stresses, which in turn makes your own struggle, the goal you are trying to hit feel part of something bigger.

Welcome homeApple

Ahhh FKA Twigs and Anderson Pac what could be more perfect. People do love to hate on these big brands when they bring in big celebrities in ads like this, calling them sell outs. I’m just happy that there is a platform for this type of work to exist and reach such a wide audience. The image manipulation, an extrusion technique makes an ordinary scene mesmerising. it reminds me of Nicholas Kennedy Sitton’s architectural photography collages. When FKA Twigs starts to enter a world of her own, her happy place, things begin to change, the images divide and the colours at the point the image is cut extrude into colourful ribbons.

The narrative shows a woman weary from a day at work being glad to get home, and her HomePod helping to brighten her mood, helping her to find the playful version of herself again, helping her to become the full and best version of herself, putting the worries of the day behind her.

What content have you enjoyed lately? Let us know in the comments.

Creative Inspiration: Content We Enjoyed this Spring was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

PageRank Updated

A popular search engine developed by Google Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. uses PageRank.RTM. as a page-quality metric for efficiently guiding the processes of web crawling, index selection, and web page ranking. Generally, the PageRank technique computes and assigns a PageRank score to each web page it encounters on the web, wherein the PageRank score serves as a measure of the relative quality of a given web page with respect to other web pages. PageRank generally ensures that important and high-quality web pages receive high PageRank scores, which enables a search engine to efficiently rank the search results based on their associated PageRank scores.

~ Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a web-link graph

A continuation patent of an updated PageRank was granted today. The original patent was filed in 2006, and reminded me a lot of Yahoo’s Trustrank (which is cited by the patent’s applicants as one of a large number of documents that this new version of the patent is based upon.)

I first wrote about this patent in the post titled, Recalculating PageRank. It was originally filed in 2006, and the first claim in the patent read like this (note the mention of “Seed Pages”):

What is claimed is:

1. A method for producing a ranking for pages on the web, comprising: receiving a plurality of web pages, wherein the plurality of web pages are inter-linked with page links; receiving n seed pages, each seed page including at least one outgoing link to a respective web page in the plurality of web pages, wherein n is an integer greater than one; assigning, by one or more computers, a respective length to each page link and each outgoing link; identifying, by the one or more computers and from among the n seed pages, a kth-closest seed page to a first web page in the plurality of web pages according to the lengths of the links, wherein k is greater than one and less than n; determining a ranking score for the first web page from a shortest distance from the kth-closest seed page to the first web page; and producing a ranking for the first web page from the ranking score.

The first claim in the newer version of this continuation patent is:

What is claimed is:

1. A method, comprising: obtaining data identifying a set of pages to be ranked, wherein each page in the set of pages is connected to at least one other page in the set of pages by a page link; obtaining data identifying a set of n seed pages that each include at least one outgoing link to a page in the set of pages, wherein n is greater than one; accessing respective lengths assigned to one or more of the page links and one or more of the outgoing links; and for each page in the set of pages: identifying a kth-closest seed page to the page according to the respective lengths, wherein k is greater than one and less than n, determining a shortest distance from the kth-closest seed page to the page; and determining a ranking score for the page based on the determined shortest distance, wherein the ranking score is a measure of a relative quality of the page relative to other pages in the set of pages.

Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a web-link graph
Inventors: Nissan Hajaj
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 9,953,049
Granted: April 24, 2018
Filed: October 19, 2015


One embodiment of the present invention provides a system that produces a ranking for web pages. During operation, the system receives a set of pages to be ranked, wherein the set of pages are interconnected with links. The system also receives a set of seed pages which include outgoing links to the set of pages. The system then assigns lengths to the links based on properties of the links and properties of the pages attached to the links. The system next computes shortest distances from the set of seed pages to each page in the set of pages based on the lengths of the links between the pages. Next, the system determines a ranking score for each page in the set of pages based on the computed shortest distances. The system then produces a ranking for the set of pages based on the ranking scores for the set of pages.

Under this newer version of PageRank, we see how it might avoid manipulation by building trust into a link graph like this:

One possible variation of PageRank that would reduce the effect of these techniques is to select a few “trusted” pages (also referred to as the seed pages) and discovers other pages which are likely to be good by following the links from the trusted pages. For example, the technique can use a set of high quality seed pages (s.sub.1, s.sub.2, . . . , s.sub.n), and for each seed page i=1, 2, . . . , n, the system can iteratively compute the PageRank scores for the set of the web pages P using the formulae:

.A-inverted..noteq..di-elect cons..function..times..fwdarw..times..function..times..function..fwdarw. ##EQU00002## where R.sub.i(s.sub.i)=1, and w(q.fwdarw.p) is an optional weight given to the link q.fwdarw.p based on its properties (with the default weight of 1).

Generally, it is desirable to use a large number of seed pages to accommodate the different languages and a wide range of fields which are contained in the fast growing web contents. Unfortunately, this variation of PageRank requires solving the entire system for each seed separately. Hence, as the number of seed pages increases, the complexity of computation increases linearly, thereby limiting the number of seeds that can be practically used.

Hence, what is needed is a method and an apparatus for producing a ranking for pages on the web using a large number of diversified seed pages without the problems of the above-described techniques.

The summary of the patent describes it like this:

One embodiment of the present invention provides a system that ranks pages on the web based on distances between the pages, wherein the pages are interconnected with links to form a link-graph. More specifically, a set of high-quality seed pages are chosen as references for ranking the pages in the link-graph, and shortest distances from the set of seed pages to each given page in the link-graph are computed. Each of the shortest distances is obtained by summing lengths of a set of links which follows the shortest path from a seed page to a given page, wherein the length of a given link is assigned to the link based on properties of the link and properties of the page attached to the link. The computed shortest distances are then used to determine the ranking scores of the associated pages.

The patent discusses the importance of a diversity of topics covered by seed sites, and the value of a large set of seed sites. It also gives us a summary of crawling and ranking and searching like this:

Crawling Ranking and Searching Processes

FIG. 3 illustrates the crawling, ranking and searching processes in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. During the crawling process, web crawler 304 crawls or otherwise searches through websites on web 302 to select web pages to be stored in indexed form in data center 308. In particular, web crawler 304 can prioritize the crawling process by using the page rank scores. The selected web pages are then compressed, indexed and ranked in 305 (using the ranking process described above) before being stored in data center 308.

During a subsequent search process, a search engine 312 receives a query 313 from a user 311 through a web browser 314. This query 313 specifies a number of terms to be searched for in the set of documents. In response to query 313, search engine 312 uses the ranking information to identify highly-ranked documents that satisfy the query. Search engine 312 then returns a response 315 through web browser 314, wherein the response 315 contains matching pages along with ranking information and references to the identified documents.

I’m thinking about looking up the many articles cited in the patent, and providing links to them, because they seem to be tremendous resources about the Web. I’ll likely publish those soon.

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PageRank Updated was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

This case study was originally published on MarketingSherpa on April 11, 2018.

Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire, recently visited MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa), and we had the opportunity to interview him about an interesting landing page experiment that was in progress at the time. Denis also shared what happened after the landing page — namely, how he staffs and runs a call center that truly provides value to customers.

Test Your Knowledge

Before you read or watch the full case study, it’s important to get in the right frame of mind. Which landing page do you think will perform better? And why? Think about that, then continue on to the case study to better understand your own assumptions and learn what the data showed. Perhaps you’ll discover a new paradigm to take your marketing to the next level.



Here, we offer an abbreviated 5-minute version of the video interview. Or you can watch the full 21-minute version. But if you prefer to read instead of watch, you can read the full transcript of the conversation below the article. Jump to full transcript.





HealthSpire is a subsidiary of Aetna, a $63 billion managed health care company founded in 1853. HealthSpire serves Americans 65 and over with Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement insurance plans. It also offers ancillary products for dental, vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

HealthSpire also serves two other groups with its marketing — individuals who have yet to turn 65 but are beginning to research Medicare products and children or caregivers of people who are or will soon be eligible for Medicare.


About 18 months ago, HealthSpire created a landing page to get potential customers to learn more about Medicare through a phone or chat conversation and, ultimately, register for Medicare plans.

Creative Sample #1: Original landing page

HealthSpire 1

“Our hypothesis was that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information will create more confusion, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us,” said Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire.

However, a few months after launching the page, Mrkva’s team realized that it wasn’t working.

“And then, I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS [Institute] and Flint [McGlaughlin] by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on.” — Denis Mrkva 

“I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go,” Mrkva said.

“So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us, and especially they’re very targeted [to] consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy,” he explained.

[Partner with MECLABS Institute to drive growth in your organization]

The team analyzed the current HealthSpire landing page and identified a problem: It had a lack of credibility hurting its primary, process-, and product-level value propositions required to build trust with potential customers and create a perceived value in speaking with a HealthSpire agent.

After all, most customers are not excited about getting on the phone with an agent or a sales rep. They must first understand the value of that conversation to overcome the anxiety of a sales call, in addition to the time and effort they would invest in such a conversation.


Based on that analysis, the team created the following research question:

Will the addition of primary and product-level value, coupled with the emphasis of value on a “Trusted Advisor,” drive additional calls?

And based on that, they created the hypothesis: By providing emphasis on the trusted advisor value rather than overwhelming prospects with the various Medicare products and plans options, we will generate more leads and requests for calls than the control.

From that hypothesis, they designed two treatment landing pages and launched an experiment.

Creative Sample #2: Treatment 1 — long page

HealthSpire 2

Creative Sample #3: Treatment 2 — Short page

HealthSpire 3


Denis visited in the middle of the experiment, and the results we discussed in the video were intermediate results before the experiment closed. The final results also showed that the longer landing page performed better, generating 638% more leads.

HealthSpire 4

Value of longer landing page outweighs its friction

Visitors (valid leads only) who saw the longer page — which included more HealthSpire/agent value copy and imagery — were more likely to call than those who saw the simpler page with less content about the agents and HealthSpire values.

In other words, the additional value presented in the longer page outweighed the additional friction from having a longer page.

Humanizing the brand added appeal and visualizing the agents reduced anxiety

Knowing that they were going to be speaking with a friendly agent may have helped them visualize how the conversation would be and reduced their anxiety.

Creative Sample #4: TeleAgent Tip from winning landing page treatment

“What we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person,.”  — Denis Mkrva 

“So having actually the person or the people who the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and provide the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.”

Creative Sample #5: Q&A with TeleAgent from winning landing page treatment

HealthSpire 6

It all begins with creating real value for the customer

The longer landing page worked because it did a better job of increasing the perceived value of contacting a TeleAgent. However, for this strategy to work, Mrkva first made sure to create real value in interacting with the TeleAgents, that could then be communicated on the landing page.

“Part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates,” Mkrva said. “The question became, how can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates?”

One way Mrkva’s team creates the value proposition for college graduates is by creating an environment the employees can thrive in. For example, they balance time on the phone with time reflecting on what they learned from previous calls — to help understand the psychology behind conversations they previously had and optimize future conversations. Understanding the people they’re talking to, not just the products they’re selling and a script they’re reading.

“It is perhaps the hardest sale you can make.What you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.” — Denis Mrkva

A customer-first marketing approach

Not only is there value for customers who call into HealthSpire because the TeleAgents are well educated, but value also comes from the type of people the company hires and the customer-first philosophy behind the advice these agents offer on the calls.

“What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing,” Mrkva said.

“We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell.” — Denis Mrkva 

“Actually, we’ll recommend either stay with what you have, or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product, because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them there is … company X [that] has this product, so you may want to go to this site,” he said.

This approach helps with employee satisfaction and engagement as well.

“It’s human nature. Our nature is to help somebody. So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace,” Mrkva said. “If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.”



Related Resources

MECLABS Research Partnerships — Participate in a research project and drive conversion increases

Landing Page Optimization: 57 guides, case studies, examples and experiments to help you increase conversion and sales

Email Marketing: Landing Page Testing Less Popular But More Effective

Landing Page Optimization: How The New York Times Generated A 1,052% Cumulative Conversion Gain

Web Usability: Long Landing Page Nets 220% More Leads Than Above The Fold Call-To-Action

Landing Page Optimization: 262% Increase In Lead Rate

MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization online certification course (from the parent research institute of MarketingSherpa)

Call Center Optimization: How The Globe and Mail cut number of calls in half while increasing sales per hour

Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

Full Transcript of Video Interview

Daniel Burstein: In our marketing, we have a lot of assumptions about what we think will work. We have that golden gut. One of those assumptions is, long form doesn’t work. People want short, they want quick. They want quippy. Well, that’s why you’ve got to test and experiment and see what works. And we’re going to look at an experiment today that challenges that model.

    Hi, I’m Daniel Burstein. I’m the Senior Director of Content at Marketing and MECLABS Institute. And I’m joined by Denis Mrkva, the General Manager of HealthSpire, a subsidiary of Aetna. Thanks for joining us, Denis.

Denis Mkrva:     Thank you for having me.

Daniel:     So, here we’re going to look at an experiment that your team ran with MECLABS Institute. So let’s just start, pull it up on the screen, and we’ve got the control and Treatment 1 and Treatment 2. Let’s just start by telling us about HealthSpire briefly. Who are they? How does HealthSpire serve a customer?

Denis:     Well, HealthSpire is an Aetna subsidiary. And as such, we offer a portfolio of Medicare products for the seniors in the country that are eligible to purchase Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, as well as ancillary products such as dental and vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke. Really we’re trying to protect as much as we can and enable people to have that protection holistically for their health.

Daniel:     Okay. And so when we look at this landing page, what was the goal of the landing page?

Denis:     Well, the goal of the landing page, if you look at the first, the control version, that’s when HealthSpire started a year and a half ago. And as you said, we all want things to be shorter, cleaner and to the point. Unfortunately, when you deal with very complex products in an industry such as healthcare, it is not that easy to do.

    However, a year and a half ago when we started HealthSpire, the assumption was, or hypothesis was, that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information would create more confusion, more friction, hence, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us.

Daniel:     Let’s take a look at it. So what were you trying to do with these two treatments?

Denis:     Okay, then a few months after starting up that page, we realized it’s not working. We realized something is going on. And then I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS and Flint by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on. I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go.

    So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us and especially {inaudible} very targeted consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy.  And so we started working on a few different prototypes.

    Again, we wanted to have something that has a bit more information, it’s more informative, but give two different looks and feels. One would be with a lot more information, in depth. Another one with less information, that would really service almost as a passthrough to people who have already done their research. And then we launched.

Daniel:     Yeah. So now you can see, if you’re watching too, look at the short versus the long. And think about that for a second. I think most people would assume, you can see how much longer that page is, short is going to work better. It’s quick, everything is right there, people don’t want to read through things that are long. Let’s take a quick look at the results.

    So now let me mention these results. They’re pretty astounding. We’re still in the middle of this experiment. Denis just happens to be joining us at our headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, here. So that’s why we’re discussing it now. The results aren’t complete yet. But look at those early numbers. That’s pretty astounding of how well the long form is doing.

Denis:     It’s doing great, actually. And what we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person. So having actually the person or the people that the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and providing the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.

Daniel:     I think what you’re doing there is a process level value proposition. Right?

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     You’re not trying to sell all of HealthSpire, all of your entire product. All you’re trying to do is get someone to make a call. And that could be a reason why the long form works better because who among us is like, “Yes, I want to get on a call with someone to sell me. That’s what I want to do. Let me grab that phone number right now.” No. You have to sell them on the value of the call, right?

Denis:     Yes. And the part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates. We believe that since the product itself and the industry is actually very complex compared to some other industries I worked in, such as consumer finance or the P&C insurance industry — it is heavily regulated, it has a diverse set of products and plans, and to actually understand that, we do want to employ people who have cognitive skills. And I think a certificate of having cognitive skills in the country is having a college degree.

    So we wanted to really try to figure out how do we — and I ran analytics for some time in my previous career where we had always an opportunity to hire people with a high level of education — the question became, “How can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates who just spent maybe $40,000 or $50,000 on their education, and now we’re asking them to be on the phone?” It wouldn’t be appealing to me at all.

    And then also, inform our customers that in order for us to service them, it has to start with our employees first, how we train them, how we treat them, how we work with them, how we develop them. And that connection that’s being done on the digital landing page or the longer version is showing results. It’s working.

Daniel:     If we take a look deeper into the results of conversions, we see there’s also more conversions for the longer page. It’s clear, you’re not just getting more people, you’re getting probably better leads. But also, what you’re doing on the call center side is working.

    So let me ask you about that because we recently did a case study with The Globe and Mail, a large Canadian newspaper, and they have a call center there. And what they were telling me is, the real challenge is, (you probably have a bigger challenge than this) is there is such high turnover in call centers that they don’t really get people who understand the product enough. Right? So what they had to do is create this messaging guide and really give them all the information necessary to even someone who’s only there a short time to understand the product.

    It’s interesting what you talk about. You have even a bigger challenge. Understanding a newspaper is one thing. Understanding a complex product that you probably yourself don’t use because you’re not a senior citizen, is more difficult. So what are some of your tactics to, one, reduce turnover and create a working environment that’s amenable, and two, to educate them so they can help educate their customers and really understand the product?

Denis:     Well, that’s interesting because let’s suppose that we are running a basketball team. That’s our business, and as a coach and general manager, we show up for a game and we realize that our players don’t know how to play the game. Whose fault is that? It’s the coach and the manager’s. So the very first thing that we realized is that in order for people to do their jobs, we not only need to find the right talent and onboard that, but we need to continuously work on coaching them day in and day out.

    And through the process, the hardest part is how do you find a balance between them doing their job and having enough time to develop them into effective employees. But not only at a professional level, how do you help them personally develop themselves and get them ready for some other jobs within the company or outside the company? So very quickly we realized it all comes down to culture and environment.

    What I mean by that is that, see, when we ask somebody to be on the phone 9 or 10 hours, it’s humanly impossible to be focused on talking to customer after customer without having the ability to actually take some time off and reflect on, “What was I talking about in the last call that made me do well versus now?”

    Then we need to enable them to start learning about the fact that talking on the phone with somebody is perhaps the hardest sale you can make, and it has a lot to do with the psychology of people rather than just learning the product. Because what you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs with that, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.

    Now to do that you also need to take out product knowledge, you need to start helping them to understand the importance of listening, importance of being able to lead people in the conversation through certain decision-making that you have to do on their behalf. So very quickly we realized it’s not only about knowing the product and having a script that you can read, it’s about exploring behind, what’s behind a sale. On the phone, it has to do with the psychology of people and ability of people to adjust their approach to the customer given the differences they have listened to on the phone.

Daniel:     It sounds like empathy.

Denis:    It is.

Daniel:    Is that something that you look for when you’re hiring? Empathy?

Denis:     What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing. And what are we doing here? We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell. 

    Actually, we’ll recommend. Either stay with us or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product — because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them, “Company X has this product, so you may want to go to this site.”

Daniel:     So that’s very interesting. I don’t want to lose that point because I assume you’re investing significant amounts to just get these calls, to begin with, on the landing page. And each call is valuable to you. So you’re saying that you train your call center employees when you don’t have the right product for them, to find the right product for them, wherever it’s from, to point them in another direction.

Denis:     Indeed.

Daniel:     That’s outstanding.

Denis:     That’s I think, if you think about HealthSpire, as I said, is a subsidiary of Aetna. Aetna has been in existence for more than 160 years. And if you take a look at our competition, perhaps the one that’s the second oldest one is most likely a hundred years younger than us. There’s a reason why Aetna survived all those decades or century and a half, more than a century and a half, and that’s the ability not only to anticipate change that is coming but actually to be around people who believe that our job is, our fiduciary responsibility is, to make money for our shareholders and to maximize that. But the way, how we achieve that is the right way. And when you put these two together I think you maximize both. You maximize the financial performance of the company and you maximize an employee satisfaction engagement that then allows you to sustain the business model.

Daniel:     It’s more fulfilling to employees to really serve the customer even when they’re not selling their own product, it sounds like.

Denis:     It’s human nature. I’d be surprised if you, maybe not every one of us, but if you take us in general, our nature is to help somebody. Would you agree?

Daniel:     Totally.

Denis:     So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace.

Daniel:     Let me ask you about that because enabling people to be people in the workplace, that could be a challenging call center. So I wonder how you monitor individual performance. Because a lot of what you’re talking about would go against the metrics we see in a lot of other call centers. It’s about the amount of calls they can make in a day or getting off the phone quickly, some of these things. It almost seems like a factory production. So how do you monitor individual performance and allow people to be people in a call center?

Denis:     It’s interesting you said that because before taking this position about 18 months ago, I never ran a business, a startup. I was in the area of analytics my entire career. It’s a function of support which you contribute, but it’s really not directly responsible for the performance of the business. And when I started learning about this, when I started my job, I reached out to people to see how other people do that. It’s new to me.

    I started thinking about things such as average handling time, minimizing average handling time. And I was thinking, and I realized, “No, I want to maximize the average handling time, given the maximum productivity.” In other words, we don’t monitor average handling time. With our agents, we have goals, what we need to sell, and then we have a very strict process on how we sell.

    That process ensures that we stay in compliance with the federal as well as state regulations because some products are regulated by the federal government, some by state. The process in which we ensure that going from introducing yourself to sale is not two minutes because in two minutes you cannot understand consumer needs. And even if they call you with a specific, preconceived notion of what they want to buy, we still want you to understand their needs because given how complex the industry is, many people actually need more education.

    So it’s easy to us. We employ people to sell but do it in a way that we want it to be done, which is actually serving that customer. And that’s what we monitor. We monitor productivity and quality. How many calls you took, how much time spent, if you sold two policies today and that’s your goal, you’re going to go home. You go home. 

    You have to allow people, give people goals, enable them with the support they have and make sure that you hire people who are accountable. And accountability comes down to making sure that one does his or her job. Part of that is not how long we talk on the phone, how many calls. It’s actually how you’re doing the right thing and how we’re meeting our goals.

Daniel:     And it sounds like diverging from the script when it’s necessary?

Denis:     Yeah, because the script guides you through the framework of sales. What I mean by that is, often if you call somebody to buy insurance products, most likely they sell only one product. And when you sell only one product, you don’t want to know the consumer needs. Because if the needs tell you they need product B, which you don’t sell, guess what? You don’t have to sell. So you’re pitching the product you have.

    Now we have every product that’s out there. So a script allows them to systematically go through the process. And that’s important because most of our people that work for HealthSpire, including myself, we don’t have sales experience. And after a while, you see that the agents start not only memorizing, it becomes very natural for them, but we still let them be them. 

    Their personalities have to come to the phone. The way they assess the situations come to the phone. It cannot be a robot talking on the other end of the phone and reading word for word, which in some cases you have to do when you get to the certain regulated things. But in the process of assessing the needs, selling, we want them to be themselves.

Daniel:     Yeah, if you want people to be robots you could just use AI at this point, right? You bring that humanity and their personality into it, sounds like?

Denis:     You have to because the difference between buying a retail item, piece of clothing, and buying insurance is different. We’re talking about, what I would say, is this emotional purchase, “I like this jacket. I want this jacket. Do I have enough money? That’s the only thing I need to know. Do I like it? Do I have enough money? Then I’m going to buy it.”

    Health insurance is a rational decision. And in that rational decision given the complexity, it’s good to have another human being thinking with you through what the implications are, what my options are. “How do I choose between these options?” And even though I do believe in numbers and technology, I don’t think AI can get us that at this point in time. Even then, you’ll still need to have some human aspect in the process.

Daniel:     Absolutely. Let me ask you lastly. You mentioned Aetna is a 160-year-old company. HealthSpire is a startup within that company.

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     So what have you learned from that from maybe learning the best from an established enterprise company and learning the best from startup culture?

Denis:     If you think about Aetna and HealthSpire, its relationship between Aetna investing in HealthSpire and taking a risk to invest in a different business model that doesn’t exist today. Well, at least doesn’t exist at the large scale. So what I learned is that as in any startup it really takes a few things. 

    The first becomes, “Are there people who are willing to invest, that have a vision of where they want to go?” I was lucky enough to be part of the company that has senior leadership who realized that the market is changing, the consumer demographics are changing, the profile of people that we employ is changing. So we need to learn this. And secondly, a person that wants that job has to have a vision that’s aligned with the overall vision of people that are willing to invest. You have to have a certain level of courage to try things that are not tried before.

    And most importantly, you have to surround yourself with people who have similar traits. People who are curious. People who are not afraid of challenges. People who are willing to sacrifice their time when the time comes to make things work. And most importantly, people understand that the success of their organization is not in having the products or the processes; It’s actually having the people on the team. If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.

Daniel:  Excellent. All right. Well, thank you very much, Denis.

Denis:      You’re very, very welcome.

Daniel:  Thank you for sharing this test, and I hope you enjoyed this experiment and learning a little more about call center optimization.

Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Finding a Happy Medium: Should You Use Medium for Your company’s Content?

You’ve likely read an article on Medium before, even if you didn’t notice the boxed “M” hanging out in the corner of your screen. The platform houses tons of popular content created by both its users and publications alike. A place for thoughtful, long-form, niche and technical content, it’s not surprising that everyone from CEOs to freelance journalists posts there regularly. Increasingly, businesses and publications have been using this platform for their content distribution. With all that in mind, is Medium the right way for your business to reach new readers?

What is Medium?

Thirty million users visit the content platform each month. Founded by Ev Williams (the former CEO of Twitter), the platform-CMS-community hybrid has made a lot of changes in how it operates alongside both publishers and marketers. An increasing number of businesses are using Medium for their company blogs, and many publishers are starting to host and distribute their entire content library through it. Like any platform, there are pros and cons for its utilization in a business’s digital marketing efforts. By examining the capabilities and options businesses have in Medium through an organic search marketing perspective, I hope to provide a deeper insight into if you should utilize Medium to improve your company’s digital content community.

Medium as a CMS

Managing your content on Medium is extremely simple. There aren’t a ton of different editing options, but it is all you need to publish written digital content effectively. Medium is a CMS without a million different plugins and add-ons, making the publishing experience fast and easy. Unlike WordPress, which has an endless amount of design themes to choose from, Medium allows for very limited on-page visual customization. This is certainly a con for larger sites, as it limits your use of visual branding elements that make your company unique.

Medium allows for Google Analytics integration to its sites, but it also has a limited amount of built-in measurement for your posts both individually and as a group in its CMS. It uses three metrics: Views, Reads and Recommends.

A graph showing the standard Medium analytics view.

‘Views’ refer to the number of users that clicked on an article. ‘Reads’ is the number of people who actually read the article; which, as far as we can tell, is calculated using the amount of time a user spends on the page and the estimated read time that is shown at the top of each article. ‘Recommends’ is the Medium equivalent of a share on its platform. The emphasis that the analytics metrics put on the time users spend on the page suggests that the Medium algorithm favors posts that people read an entire article. This is one of the reasons the platform works so well for long-form, informative and academic content.  

Medium as a Content Platform

Certainly one of the most appealing parts of utilizing Medium is its large network of engaged users. The company reported a 300% increase in users since last year and has continued to grow. Many large publishers and companies use Medium including sweetgreen, General Electric and Signal v Noise (BaseCamp’s Blog).

Medium’s user-base is very focused on getting high-quality content that is not watered down. This is shown through Medium’s pivot in its business model earlier this year where it no longer offered advertising services for publishers. Their business model relies on putting more of an emphasis on content. So, if you’re a publishing site that gets most (if not all) of its revenue from banner ads, Medium may not be a wise choice for your business.

Recently, Medium has shifted its business model to open up a membership program where readers pay a monthly fee for access to extra features (like audio versions of popular posts) and can “clap” for posts they really enjoy and send the writers a portion of their monthly membership fee for compensation to the writer. There haven’t been any studies done yet to indicate that this has slowed the growth or the engagement on the platform, as the monthly fee is also required to access all of the content on the platform.

Despite that, Medium is an excellent platform for emerging publishers or startups’ blogs for this reason. Users actually read the content. The Medium team puts a heavy focus on the amount of time spent reading each post, and measures time reading meticulously, taking pauses and sidescroller movement into account. In 2016 its users spent an average 4.5 million hours per month reading on the platform. Its users can also subscribe to blogs, authors, tags or categories of posts that they like in their custom feeds. The essentially built-in audience that Medium provides to its publishers is a great platform for your site to jump off from. It helps to build your users in a quicker and easier way.

Case Study: was one of the first large publishing sites that began using Medium for their initial content distribution strategy. The Ringer is a product of the Bill Simmons’ podcast network and already has an audience following from its previous incarnation (Grantland). In this interview by Recode, Simmons expands on his media projects’ relationship with the Medium platform. He explains that initially, they utilized Medium as a way for them to maintain a website without spending most of their funds on development projects. This is another way small or startup companies can utilize medium as both a content network and a platform.

Update: As of June 14th, 2017 The Ringer as migrated off of the Medium platform and now partners with Vox Media. In the case of this article, it makes sense to use The Ringer as an example of a company that grew with Medium and then outgrew the platform and easily transitioned to a new one after ending its relationship.

Custom domains vs. Medium-generated domains

Later, in the above-mentioned podcast interview, Simmons goes on to explain that even now that they can no longer sell banner ads on the site (they are funded entirely by podcast ads anyways), that they will stay on the platform a little bit longer. However, they intend to build their own site eventually. This shows that many new websites that are looking to eventually ‘outgrow’ Medium, should opt to use a custom domain rather than a Medium generated domain (like, Although depending on a platform to both hold and distribute all of your content is considered risky, generally. It is possible to move your content off of Medium, and this would be much easier if you utilize a custom domain rather than Medium’s.

The Ringer having migrated off of the platform has experienced minimal issues with the transition.

On the other hand, if you plan on staying inside of the Medium platform, for much smaller companies and blogs, it could also be an advantage to utilize Medium’s high domain authority (92), to help boost your traffic in organic search results rather than switching to your own domain and starting from zero.

What if you already have a website?

All of the suggestions I’ve made so far about the utilization of Medium in your digital marketing efforts have been centered around newer sites. However, there are a few ways to get your content seen on its network if you already have a site that has a regular audience and a domain.

  1. You can republish your content on Medium. Medium allows you to canonicalize content you post onto the Medium network to your own website. This makes it so you get neither a duplicate content penalty or get outranked by your Medium posts in the SERP. Just, make sure that you are canonicalizing back to your site’s original post. You can import a story here. Baremetrics, an analytics tool, recently published a post revealing that they actually had a larger audience outside of the medium platform and as a result have largely removed their content from Medium as they have more success with their website off of the platform. However, in the post they do note that they republish content after its initial publish date by 2 weeks and use the import tool to canonicalize to their own site.
  2. You can also migrate your site to the platform fairly easily. However, do not do this unless you are sure that its limited CMS and user-base is right for you. If you create a lot of long form informative content and have limited development help or need, migrating your site to Medium is an option to consider.

Medium and Technical SEO

When I first started examining Medium from an SEO perspective, I was alarmed by the amount of URLs associated with each page. Both author and post pages use around eight URLs similar to, “———1”.  However, all of these extra URLs are for tracking purposes and are properly canonicalized, so there should not be duplicate content issues as a result.

Medium also has an interesting sitemap strategy. All of Medium’s sitemaps are auto-generated, as many platforms are. What makes Medium’s different is it generates a different sitemap section of the index sorted by date (see image below):

Generating sitemaps by date is very effective for timely content. So, if your site has a lot of content that is centered around news or trending topics, Medium’s sitemap sorting strategy should have a positive impact on your search visibility.

These dated sitemaps may also have a correlation with the priority many Medium sites seem to get when it comes to timely content in the SERPs, making them a sound strategy for news sites.


While using Medium for your blog (or your site) might not be the right choice in every situation, there are many ways that this platform can help you to grow an audience more quickly or begin a content heavy site with minimal development startup. This platform is ideal for small startup businesses’ blogs and publishing sites just starting to grow an audience.

Like most platforms, it’s a risk to put all of your content into a separate companies hands, and given how much Medium has changed already, this is certainly something to keep in mind when choosing to serve your blog on it. It has a very engaged audience of readers, and if your content resonates with its community, it can really help get your content out there. Medium is a great place for long-form, educational and intellectual content, so if your blog or website fits into those genres, Medium is certainly a platform to consider.

Finding a Happy Medium: Should You Use Medium for Your company’s Content? was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Elements of a Viral Social Media Campaign


Social media has become the world’s most popular digital platforms over the past few years. With billions of registered users in all platforms combined, this has helped create an interconnected world in which communication, interaction, and promotion has now become much more efficient and accessible.

The rise of social media platforms not only changed the way people communicate, but it also helped various companies and their brands to find new ways to communicate with their audience as well. With digital marketing becoming the new standard in promoting businesses, the use of social media has been a game-changer, as it can help obscure brands become household names in a short period of time.

The increase in popularity of these brands is a result of viral social media campaigns. Becoming “viral” on the internet means that a topic or brand is popular over a certain period of time, being mentioned on multiple websites and social media platforms. Creating a social media campaign that can get viral takes a lot of effort and the right timing, along with key elements that make it all work. With that in mind, here are the crucial elements of a viral social media campaign.

The Right Platform

Getting viral on social media begins by promoting your content on the right platform. Currently, the most popular social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It is best to know which platform your audience prefers to use regularly and picking the right one would help boost traffic and interactions by a huge amount. For example, when it comes to news and major announcements, Twitter is the best platform to use. As evidenced by this Tweet from Disney announcing an upcoming movie.

Viral Tweet

The right platform makes a big difference, as it would be a starting point in which your content would gain traffic and be shared to other platforms.

Knowing Your Audience

When it comes to any social media marketing strategy, audience targeting will always be the key, as it would help you identify and narrow down their preferences and interests. Various brands and products ensure that they cater to the right audience to be able to achieve the best impression. One example of a successful social media campaign is the Know Your Lemons campaign, which aimed to inform and educate women around the world about breast cancer.

Know Your Lemons

For this case, the target demographic is clear and well-defined, which allowed the campaign to become successful and reach multiple countries across the world. When it comes to establishing campaigns, it is best to know what the audience wants and needs before taking further steps.

Have a Purpose

Things become viral on the internet for many different reasons. Whether it be a fun and creative Super Bowl commercial:

Alexa Super Bowl Commercial

Or a hilarious tweet that people can relate to:


The most viral social media campaigns have at least one of these two ingredients: entertaining or informative. An entertaining social media campaign always gets people talking about it for a long time. However, if you are a company that wants to sell through viral marketing, taking the informative approach is the best way to go. These kinds of campaigns make full use of images such as infographics and video marketing to become viral.

A fine example of an infographic that is informative and sells is Home Depot’s “Color Theory”, which informs the audience about how different colors mix and work together, which in turn advertises their paint products.

Color theory

As you can see, infographics not only help sell a product to their audience but also provide useful information that makes it something that is beyond entertaining. Once again, creating helpful content is a great way to sell and promote your brand, and eventually, go viral.

Evoke Emotion

One of the best ways to gain audience interest using social media campaigns is by evoking emotions that they can relate to. Some of the most successful social media campaigns evoke happy and positive emotions, like Norway’s #SheepWithAView campaign, which promoted tourism in the country through the use of sheep that guide people to some wonderful destinations. This is an example of a lighthearted social media campaign done right.

Norway Tourism

An example of a more serious social media campaign is WWF’s #EndangeredEmoji, which promotes awareness of the world’s most endangered species.

WWF Endangered

Emotions help sell the product and keep the audience invested, which prompts them to share it with people they know through social media.

Timing Matters

One of the best ways content can get viral on the internet is by posting and sharing it at the right time. For brands, this can mean many different things. Some viral campaigns take advantage of certain events, like sporting events, where a bulk of viral marketing has happened in the past few years.

Share A Coke

Brands can also take advantage of seasons like Christmas to promote their products, which helps increase your chances of going viral.

Samsung Holiday Ad

As you can see, timing counts, and taking a “Strike while the iron is hot” approach will pay dividends for your social media campaign.

Key Takeaway

Social media campaigns are some of the best ways to sell and promote products and advocacies to today’s audience, which is why getting viral is crucial to make it successful. By having these aforementioned elements, you are bound to have a social media campaign that would help bring success to your brand.

If you have questions about Social Media Marketing or SEO in general, leave a comment below and let’s talk.

Elements of a Viral Social Media Campaign was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Adding Content Before Subscription Checkout Increases Product Revenue 38%

Adding content to a process that leads to revenue for a company seems like a bad idea — particularly when that process is already five steps long. But for iReach (at the time, a division of PRNewswire) the decision to add content led to a 31% increase in conversion and a 38% increase in product revenue.

The Control Checkout Process

Here’s the control entry page:

Click on images to enlarge


Here’s an example of the following five cart pages in the control process:

In the data, it appeared that many people were exiting the process due to confusion and a lack of information. After studying customer service inquiries, it was clear that there were many questions potential customers had that were not being answered in the process.

The Treatment Checkout Process

Here’s the treatment entry page:

Below the call-to-action are links to additional content about the product for specific customer segments. Each piece of content was designed to answer further questions the PRN team hypothesized most customers were asking about the product in their minds.

These changes along with a clear product selection page (below) generated a significant result.


The Results

By adding steps in the process — particularly product information and a clear product matrix, iReach generated a 31% increase in conversion and 38% more revenue from its subscription/ecommerce offering

You Might Also Like

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How One Ecommerce Company Generated a 34% Increase by Simply Being Factual About its Product


Adding Content Before Subscription Checkout Increases Product Revenue 38% was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

Common CRO Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

There are so many intricacies to Conversion Rate Optimization and UX testing, it’s easy to feel like you’re on information overload. There are tons of metrics you can compare, various reports you can dive into, a plethora of ways to form hypotheses and implement tests, several platforms for testing to choose from, and the list goes on.

There are some great comprehensive posts out there to help you master these intricacies. A few of my favorites are:

  1. This master guide to CRO from ConversionXL which addresses every phase of the process from preliminary research to analyzing AB test results. For when you’re getting started with CRO work.
  2. This framework from Moz to CRO. It breaks the process down into steps that are easy to follow and asks and answers questions that follow along with each step. Use for diving deeper into CRO.
  3. And Neil Patel’s guide to CRO which breaks down CRO on a more conceptual level. Use to fill in the knowledge gaps and answer questions you have along the way.
  4. Craig Sullivan’s 1 hour CRO guide is also very comprehensive. Use if you’re trying to get some quick research done.

There’s a lot to digest in those posts, so I wanted to give you some common mistakes and tricky issues with CRO that you might overlook if it is your first time going through the process.

To Refresh Your Memory

The very basic steps of a CRO process include:

  1. Exploratory heuristic analysis: going through the site as if you were a user and see where it does/doesn’t meet expectations as you move through the funnel. Explore where users might get caught up in navigating the site.
  2. Examination of Multi Channel Funnel reports, Landing Page, and Goal Reports in Google Analytics. Determine what pages, events, or users would be most valuable to track. Also get some basic benchmarks so that you have something to compare post-testing stats to later.
  3. Set up tracking (if you don’t have it already) on key pages. Track important KPIs, CTAs, element visibility, etc. using something like Hotjar, GTM, GA goals, etc.
  4. Generate hypotheses from gathered data and get approval. Prioritize these hypotheses based on ease of implementation, projected impact, return on investment.
  5. Generate test ideas based on hypotheses.
  6. Implement tests using Optimizely, VWO, Google Optimize, etc.
  7. Wait until tests generate statistically significant results. However, depending on the page and the levels of traffic or conversions that it gets, you may have to give it some more time.
  8. Reevaluate tests if unsuccessful or implement test changes at scale.

Among these steps (which are already a summary) there are dozens of minute details that are very easy to overlook or skip altogether. The rest of this post will cover common CRO mistakes that a beginner might make:

  1. You don’t have tracking set up properly
  2. You run tests at inopportune times of the year
  3. The sample size for your test is inadequate
  4. You aren’t running your test long enough
  5. Statistics confuses you
  6. You treat all traffic the same
  7. Your process is unorganized

1. You don’t have tracking set up correctly

Having tracking correctly set up is crucial. Not only should you have heatmap and user session tracking set up on the pages you are planning to analyze, but you should have micro-conversion tracking set up via Google Tag Manager. Setting up tracking in GTM for clicks and user engagement, like scroll depth and element visibility, will provide valuable data on how users are interacting with elements and CTAs on your pages. This is immensely helpful when determining which pages to analyze and while forming hypotheses and test ideas for these pages.

One very valuable trigger in GTM is the element visibility trigger, which can assist in collecting information on whether or not an element is visible on a page, and thus if a user is likely to engage with it or if a user can engage with it at all. The trigger gives you a more meaningful indication of scroll depth based on tracking elements as opposed to percentage scrolled. This post for getting it set up is very helpful.

If you don’t have GTM event tracking set up at all, it’s pretty simple, and these guides can help: here’s a simple how-to to set it up, or this video.

2. You don’t pay attention to the calendar when launching a test

Seasonality is not a myth. It can truly inform decision making during preliminary research through to the A/B testing stage. Without taking seasonality into account, you run the risk of achieving invalid or inaccurate results.  For example, running a test at a known low point in your sales cycle, or during the end of December may not be the wisest idea for most companies.

Why? Timing is crucial because:

  1. If you run a test at a lull in traffic, the longer a test is going to need to run to reach significance.
  2. You want the test to be performed on the most qualified traffic possible. Running a test at an off (or really on) time of the season may not demonstrate an accurate representation of your typical traffic.
  3. Traffic typically fluctuates during the week quite a bit, meaning you should probably start and end your test on the same day of the week for the most accurate results.
  4. Similarly, user intent around the holiday season, or at different points of the year may not be indicative of the most qualified traffic. The data that results could be less than useful for determining whether or not your test could be successful at scale (a hard enough task to accomplish with good data).

3. Your sample size for testing isn’t big enough

Having a large enough sample size to quantify your test results is crucial. Without an appropriate sample size, you may never get results or the results you get might not be meaningful. Luckily, there are tools to help determine proper sample size:

It is also helpful to be conscious of the level of traffic your test pages receive. Low traffic pages may be difficult to test on because it could take a long time to reach statistical significance, particularly if there are few conversions on these pages. Basing the impact of a test on a small number of conversions and traffic may not indicate how a test would perform if pushed at scale. For sites or pages with low traffic, you might need to think about making a big change(s) in your test variation(s) instead of smaller changes in order to see the needle move. From there, you can always adjust tests and reevaluate.

4. You’re not running the test for long enough

This point tends to correlate with the point above on sample size. It’s likely that you will not have to do a lot of the work here because many platforms have built-in features for calculating and demonstrating results to the tester. However, it is really important to understand how statistical significance works, even at a basic level, to make sense of A/B testing and your results.

Every A/B testing post you’ll find will say to run your test until it reaches statistical significance. But what does that mean exactly? In (very) short, statistical significance explains how confident you can be that you are choosing the right result between two or more variations. This can be confusing if you’re less mathematically inclined, but the next section of this post lists resources to basic statistics primers specifically for CRO.

Generally speaking, running your test until (or even slightly after) it reaches significance is a decent rule of thumb. Even if you obtain “significance” very shortly after you begin your test, it is wise to keep the test running to account for users who may convert several days after their initial visit. Also, it is important to consider accounting for different business cycles (at least 1-2), because, as stated previously, traffic fluctuates at different points of the week, month, quarter, etc.

I also like these articles: this one for explaining how long to run a test and this for explaining the factors that play into in determining statistical validity.

5. You’re Making Some Basic Statistical Errors

There are a lot of resources out there for testing methodology and for learning statistics basics that matter for CRO. One of the most important fundamentals is understanding statistical significance.


6. You treat all traffic the same

If you run an A/B test on a page and the variation performed poorly, it is possible to paint a very different picture when you look at the results broken down by a different segment of traffic. For example, if you look at the breakdown between desktop and mobile test results, it could prove that a test generates extremely significant results on mobile, but is a bust on desktop. This is because what works on desktop may not work on mobile, and vice versa. Here’s an illustrative example of how mobile vs. desktop test result data could be misleading:

In the example above, the change in conversion rate between the control and variant effectively cancel each other out. In this example, there would clearly be a missed opportunity here on mobile if we were to view only the combined results instead of breaking them down by device.

It is important to be conscious of this concept of segmenting results not only for analyzing test results, but for the initial research and hypothesizing that goes into ideating for tests as well. Distinguishing between different types of traffic (e.g. mobile vs. desktop, new vs. returning users, or traffic source) to form segments of your users can help to differentiate and find patterns in the type of people who convert. Doing this can better inform the way you create hypotheses and tests. In turn, you may end up with far more meaningful results.

7. Your testing process is a little less than organized

A lot can get lost in the shuffle here. So staying on top of managing a list of your prioritized hypotheses and test ideas, currently running tests, failed tests, and successful tests that will be iterated upon is important.

For example, it’s easy enough to keep track of results in a spreadsheet like this:

Recording all hypotheses in one place with the reasoning behind them and data to back them will save you time and energy down the line, especially when communicating with clients/stakeholders.

There are other platforms designed to specifically to manage CRO pursuits. Effective Experiments is a comprehensive project management tool that holds everything from ideas to test results. This is great for managing and sharing tests in one place that multiple people can access and review. (AKA great for sharing with stakeholders or team members who are not directly involved in the CRO process themselves).

Common CRO Mistakes & How to Avoid Them was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing